Winter doesn’t have to be a time of hibernation for your horse. It is actually better to keep your horse in some sort of shape during the winter rather than giving him several months off and trying to get back in to show season shape in a hurry. Winter workouts help maintain your horse’s fitness, preserve training, and promote mental well being. Here are some tips to help you properly work your horse during the winter months:
Warming up the cold muscles in the winter is critical to a safe ride. It stretches the muscles and joints and also gets your horse’s circulation going. Warm ups should be around 10-20 minutes. Warm ups can include small circles, lateral movements, counter flexions, halts, backing, walk to trot transitions, and so on.
The main part of your horse’s workout is generally geared towards keeping your horse in condition and refining his skills. If you are riding three days a week, you should try to make one of those rides a “serious” ride. Depending on your disciple, this may include jumping, running a pattern, etc. This will also help to keep your horse’s mind in the game.
If you plan on showing your horse throughout the winter, conditioning shouldn’t be much different than during the summer. Create your work out plans based on how much fitness is needed for your show. If your horse is barefoot during the winter, put shoes on him 2-3 weeks prior to the show date to address any soreness if necessary.
After any hard workout, your horse needs a proper cool down before returning to this stall or turnout. The circulation from a cool down helps to keep your horse from becoming stiff and sore. If the horse’s skin is wet from sweating, the horse needs to completely dry out to keep the horse from getting chills. Walk your horse quietly under saddle for about 10-15 minutes or until he stops breathing heavily. Depending on how a horse is clipped, some horses may need a cooler on when being cooled out to keep them from catching a chill.
Winter workouts are essential to your horse’s overall condition. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures and get out there and ride!
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